As crisp fall weather takes hold, families, couples and groups of friends seek out their favorite pumpkin patch. For many in Longmont that means a trip to the Rocky Mountain Pumpkin Ranch.
The family-owned business at 9059 Ute Highway is part organic farm stand and part fall fair. Not only are there conscientiously grown vegetables from the family’s 2,000-acre, year-round production farm, there also are artisan honey, ciders, pumpkin bread and canned items. There also are rides. Lots of rides.
“Kids 10 and under have the best time at the ranch,” said General Manager Lauren Freas.
She would know. She represents the second generation to work there full time. Freas was around 3 when the family started the business in 1992, and she took shifts during high school and college. Ultimately, she brought the business degree she earned at the University of Northern Colorado back to the family business.
Freas recounted making the most of her full-time access to excursions that most guests only get to enjoy for a few hours each year.
“When I was younger, I loved it. I got to run around wild with a carnival in my backyard. We had some dairy calves I got to feed and there were baby goats that followed me and my sister around. Every year there was something special, something fun,” she said.Through its 28 years, the ranch has tried out new attractions, keeping what works, and moving on from the rest. A haunted house came and went, as did school tours.
That openness to experimentation has helped the ranch respond to challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic. Some measures implement due to COVID-19 are things Freas and crew have grown to like and will keep for the long term.
“We’ve invested in paint kits for pumpkin painting instead of using community paint sets and that was a better improvement. We’ll keep doing that,” she said.
The on-site store also has been reworked with wider aisles, a wider exit and single-direction foot traffic.Freas said opening during the pandemic was frightening, but the risk appears to have paid off.
“It’s been a little crazier than I was expecting. People are out and about in larger numbers than we’ve seen in the past. It’s exciting but it has been challenging to keep up with it all,” Freas said.
Customer feedback has been positive.
Loveland resident and mom Katlynn Fischer visited earlier this month when she saw the ranch on the way to a different farm.
“It was our first time there and our 6-month-old’s first farm experience. It was a little crowded, but the food was good, and we loved the hay maze,” she said.
This month, the ranch is offering a weekend Pumpkin Carnival from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, complete with pony rides, pumpkin picking painting, a petting zoo, hay mazem cornstalk tunne and food vendors. Weekdays visitors can explore the grounds at the leisure.
All activities any day of the week are available on a pay-person-basis.
Freas said she relishes being able to bring her childhood experiences to new generations of kids, including her 2-year-old son. There are photos of the family in front of the same hay bale backgrounds guests have enjoyed for years.
“He’s super fun to bring out here. It brings a lot of joy to have him out here,” she said.
That joy will soon multiply as Freas is expecting her second child.
That generational aspect is part of what the ranch has always been about.
“There are families that have come back, and they took their kids when they were little, and now they’re taking their grandkids,” Freas said. ”Its special to be a part of it and to be able to keep it going now, with my own kids. Talking about it, makes me be a little bit emotional. In a good way. It’s family but it’s a lot of good memories.”